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Foreword
Wayne C. Starnes

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 12, Special Issue 4 (2013): 1–3

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1 W.C. Starnes 2013 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 Foreword Wayne C. Starnes* On that day back in spring of 1975 when fellow University of Tennessee graduate students G.W. (Bill) Wolfe and John Lowe walked into our office area, bearing a remarkable-looking fish and puzzled looks on their faces, I knew instantly that something unknown to current ichthyologists may have come to light, barring its being the manifestation of any odd hybrid combination. Even though it sported a striking, broad, black lateral stripe like none other we had seen, it was readily apparent this minnow was a member of the redbelly dace group, the North American members of which were then allocated to the genus Phoxinus Rafinesque along with Eurasian forms. At the time, along with Robert E. Jenkins, I had already been engaged for a few years in the study of another new taxon in that group, Chrosomus tennesseensis (Starnes and Jenkins) (Tennessee Dace), though, as circumstances would have it, we ultimately didn’t complete its description until a full decade after that of Chrosomus cumberlandensis (Starnes and Starnes) (Blackside Dace). On that basis, I entreated my major Professor, David A. Etnier, to permit me to also pursue investigation of this apparent new form alongside my main dissertation project, the ecology of Percina tanasi Etnier (Snail Darter), to which he graciously agreed. Bill and John had since moved on into the study of bugs and other pursuits so I took up the study on my own, later joined by my first wife Lynn B. Starnes. On personal funds and weekend time, we first launched a quest in Brownies Creek, Bell County, KY, the site of Bill and John’s first capture, to try to duplicate their find. It was with some difficulty that we finally corroborated the occurrence, capturing just a few specimens after considerable effort. None of these bore the intense, broad, black lateral stripe, but it was clear that the two, more vague, convergent stripes on their sides were like nothing we had seen and likely gave rise to the striking “black side wall” in mature, breeding individuals. We knew we had our fish! Already suspecting we might be dealing with an organism restricted to Cumberland Plateau habitats, with our personal resources and a little support generously arranged by Monte Seehorn of the US Forest Service, we targeted likely looking streams over the breadth of the upper Cumberland River basin in the following months, learning as we went that many had suffered the effects of the coal mining pervasive of the region and likely no longer supported their original complements of species. With those initial efforts, we were only able to demonstrate the persistence of just a dozen extant populations. We were also surprised to discover the syntopic occurrence of Chrosomus erythrogaster (Rafinesque) (Southern Redbelly Dace) at several locations, with no hybrids *Director of Research Lab and Research Curator of Fishes, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601; wayne.starnes@ naturalsciences.org. Ecology and Conservation of the Threatened Blackside Dace, Chrosomus cumberlandensis 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 12(Special Issue 4):1–3 W.C. Starnes 2013 Southeastern Naturalist 2 Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 apparent, further validating the distinctness of our black-sided quarry. Examination of specimens deposited in museums around the country that had been previously identified as Chrosomus erythrogaster, as well as color descriptions in the literature, brought to light some misidentifications of Blackside Dace and documented the prior existence of four additional populations, including two collections taken a full century before its recognition as a new t axon! At the time of our description in 1978, the Blackside Dace was known from that meager dozen populations and, clearly, was a fish in potential trouble. Based on this, the US Fish and Wildlife Service soon took an interest and, with the help of Richard Biggins of the Service, funding to the tune of about $5500 was arranged for an expanded survey and preparation of a listing package. In those days, we were thrilled with this amount of funds and thought we were rolling in the dough. For that compensation, we intensively surveyed 168 streams in the upper Cumberland basin and were able to increase the number of extant occurrences to 27 streams, as well as to learn much more of its biology and ecology, which we published in 1981. Moreover, threat assessments were conducted based on coal reserves and other factors in each of those 27 watersheds. While these assessments did not paint a rosy picture in several cases, banking on the expanse of the Daniel Boone National Forest as a protector of a significant portion of the dace’s range, I recommended in 1981 that it be federally listed as threatened rather than endangered, which occurred several years later in 1987. After I moved out of the picture in the early 1980s to assume duties at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, an amazing amount of support has been forthcoming such that others might carry on with the study of this charismatic little fish. This follow-up research began in the early 1980s with Chris O’Bara, of the Cooperative Fishery Research Unit at Tennessee Technological University, who was able to survey 193 streams and added another three stream populations to the known total (but sadly also documented some losses). He was followed by a series of graduate students over the next couple of decades who were provided the resources to build on our prior work and expand into sophisticated areas of study beyond what was thought possible in those earlier days. Concurrent to that, the staff of Conservation Fisheries, Inc., in Knoxville, TN, were afforded the resources to bring their talented “wet thumbs” into the process and made valuable contributions to the knowledge of how to propagate these fishes where necessary for conservation. The fruits of those expended resources and efforts are manifest in several of the twelve fine contributions found in this special issue of Southeastern Naturalist and are a tribute to the vision of the individuals in the resource agencies and academic institutions, including Richard Biggins, Monte Seehorn, Hayden Mattingly, Victoria Bishop, Lee Barclay, Lee Andrews, and Michael Floyd, as well as others that have led the way since the days of my close involvement with the Blackside Dace. They have been instrumental in maintaining the support and forward progress in the pursuit of knowledge important to the preservation and conservation of this exquisite little fish, as have certainly all the authors herein 3 W.C. Starnes 2013 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 12, Special Issue 4 who toiled in the field and lab to bring forth these contributions. Too, the editorship and staff of Southeastern Naturalist are to be commended for permitting the assimilation of these valuable works into a single compendium. With this publication, these works and the prior ones they build on have brought the Blackside Dace from beneath the veil of the totally unknown to a place of being one of the more thoroughly studied nongame organisms in North America in just a bit over three decades. While formal listing certainly may have increased access to the resources necessary for this expansion of knowledge, and though I may be just a little biased, I can’t help but believe that the striking beauty and charisma of this small minnow have stirred empathy and resolve that such a beautiful thing of nature should not be allowed to perish from existence and have fueled the will to study and protect it. Again, with bias, I feel that the Blackside Dace is among the most beautiful of fishes and I have long felt lucky to have had the privilege of making it known to Science and Society and to all of those who have since revered it and poured their efforts into increasing the knowledge and preservation of it. Deep thanks to all involved.